Collins shines, but Saints fail to make sevens finals day

IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE - Tom Collins

IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE - Tom Collins

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Tom Collins lit up the JP Morgan Sevens Series at Franklin’s Gardens - despite Saints’ failure to advance to finals day.

The 19-year-old utility back grabbed three scores and also made a number of try-saving tackles, but couldn’t prevent his side losing all three games.

Paul Diggin was also on the scoresheet as he registered twice, but Saints were beaten in the final play of the game by both Newcastle and Sale.

They also suffered defeat to Leicester, losing 17-5 in the final match of the night, which saw the Tigers join Newcastle in booking a trip to finals day at Bath next Friday night.

The Falcons won all three of their games to ease through to the main event at the Recreation Ground, where they will aim to pick up some pre-season silverware.

The Series opener set the tone for Saints as Newcastle’s Simon Hammersley snatched the victory from their grasp.

The hosts had done brilliantly to fight back from 21-5 down, with senior academy ace Collins leading the charge.

The England Under 20s player set up a try for Harry Betts and scored two himself, one of which was a spectacular length-of-the field effort.

Diggin, wearing the No.2 shirt, also dotted down in front to loud cheers from the Saints faithful, but it wasn’t to be enough.

Tom Catterick, Michael Tait, Richard Mayhew and Hammersley, plus four conversions from Ollie Hodgson, won it for the Falcons.

The second game saw Leicester get the better of Sale, claiming a 10-7 win, before tiredness told for the Tigers, who suffered a 19-10 reverse against Newcastle.

Saints were back in the thick of it in game four, taking on Sale with both sides having failed to win their opening matches.

The Sharks certainly weren’t low on confidence, though, as a dark blue tide englufed Saints early on.

John O’Donnell went over twice in quick succession, with Will Cliff’s conversion making it 12-0 before the home side had been given time to take a breath.

Diggin grabbed his second of the night to reduce the arrears before half-time and the scores were soon level as Collins grabbed his third try of the night, Ryan Glynn converting.

Collins then then made a superb try-saving tackle on Danny Waddy before skipper Glynn danced his way to the tryline, bamboozling the Sharks defence to put Saints ahead.

If that try was good, what came next, from Collins, was even better as the No.12 dinked the ball through and latched onto it to score.

Saints were flying at 22-12, but Sale weren’t giving up and Nathan Fowles’ quickfire double, the second of which came with the final play of the game, won it for the men in dark blue.

But the Sharks were unable to secure their place in next week’s finals day, losing their third game of the evening 12-5 to the impressive Falcons.

That meant east midlands rivals Saints faced Leicester in a winner takes all battle in the last game, with the sides having accrued enough bonus points to stay in the reckoning.

And it was to be the Tigers who found their feet first as Tahir El Mahdi, known by his team-mates as Cookie, saw the Saints defence crumble in front of him twice early on.

Leicester held a 10-0 lead going into the second half and though Alex Day got a try back, David Williams finished things off for Tigers, who will go to The Rec on Friday.

Saints: Vasily Artemyev, Collins, A Day, Glynn, Hooley, Olver, Stephenson; Diggin, Betts, Harry, Conner, Robinson

Leicester: Williams, Jake Farnworth, Lucas Guillarme, Harry Wells, Blaine Scully, George Catchpole, Pasqualle Dunn, Henry Purdy, George Tresidder, Tahir El Mahdi, Scott Steele, Perry Humphreys.

Sale: Cameron Neild, Danny Waddy, Jason Hill, Jack Allcock, Luke Wishnowsky, Will Cliff, Nathan Fowles, Tom Brady, Phil MacKensie, James Mitchell, Josh Fowles, John O’Donnell.

Newcastle: Harrison Collins, Ben Morris, Richard Mayhew, Glen Young, Michael Tait, Ollie Hodgson, Chris Harris, Andy Davies, Joel Hodgson, Sean Brown, Simon Hammersley, Tom Catterick.